Rudy Giuliani and Bill O’Reilly and other right-wing nuts are out to prove that we do not have a policing problem in this country. According to them, we have a “no respect” for the law problem. However, in all of their rants, they are proving there really is a “policing problem” in this country.
We also know from investigations that we have a “profiling” problem in this country. Several areas have been found, by the courts, to be racially profiling who they pull over for traffic stops. When you put the two together, you have a disturbing problem.
Let me be clear. In my past lives I worked very closely with law enforcement agencies all across the country. I fully know that the vast majority of law enforcement officers are good, honest, hard-working men and women. They take their jobs very seriously and do the very best they can every single day.
I also know that there are way too many police officers who should never be allowed to wear the uniform. They come into the job as racists and use their “power” to harass those they don’t like. On one hand, it is unfortunate that the “good cops” are lumped together with the bad cops when things go wrong. On the other hand, if they have remained silent about the “bad cops” they know by keeping the “code of silence”, they are partially to blame in all of this. They need to speak up and get the “bad cops” off of the force. I know how hard that is. But the true definition of courage is doing what is right even if others won’t.
If you don’t believe we have a policing and profile problem, let me explain it this way. A few years ago on my way to work I was pulled over in a county next to the one I live in. I was doing 60 in a 55 zone. The Sheriff’s deputy asked me for my driver’s license and registration which I handed over. When he returned to my car, he informed me that my registration was “invalid” because I had not signed it. He then offered me a pen and watched as I signed it. He eventually let me off with a “warning”.
A few weeks later, a coworker was pulled over in the same county. He was doing 47 in a 45 zone according to the ticket he received. Additionally, when the deputy returned to his car he asked him to step out of the vehicle. He then arrested the man for “driving without a valid registration”. See, he also did not sign his registration card.
There were two things that differentiated me from him. I was older and he was black. Two people stopped for similar minor traffic offenses. Two people who had forgotten to “sign” their registration cards. One let go the other arrested. The one let go an old white man. The one arrested a young black man.
The situation in the Castile case is not that different. This man had been pulled over numerous times in the same area. He was cited at least 50 times for minor traffic violations from speeding to a broken tail light. A huge majority of those violations were dismissed outright.
The right-wing has gone off about how “more white people” are killed by police officers than black people. If you look at raw numbers they are right. However, if you look at the “per capita” rates of white people getting killed versus black people, the numbers are staggering against black people.
But, even if you disregard that fact, as almost everyone on the right does, the fact remains that too many people are killed at the hands of the police. Even if you take away all of the incidents of the victim first shooting at police, and thus bringing it upon themselves, the numbers are still way too high.
The lawyer for the officer in the Castile case claims his client was “reacting to the gun” not to the man’s race. Which tells me we have a gun problem in this country as well. Something the right is not about to talk about. But, even if this statement were true, the officer still used improper judgement in shooting Castile.
When I was in the Coast Guard, I had to take courses on handling weapons in conjunction with civilians due to our “law enforcement’ work. I had to take and pass a “shoot, don’t shoot” test. I vividly remember the test and the instructions I was given about when to shoot and when to hold my fire. In one scene, a suspect made a sudden move towards a gun in his waistband but instead raised his hands over his head without touching his gun. Since he never touched the gun, you were not supposed to shoot.
We were instructed that if you see a suspect with a gun in his hand, you are more likely to be valid in a decision to shoot. However, if the suspect did not attempt to draw his weapon, we were instructed not to shoot.
Which tells me that since Castile never pulled his weapon, the officer involved should not have fired his weapon. The reason he fired his weapon only he knows for sure. However, it goes closely with the shooting of Sterling in Baton Rouge. In that incident, one of the officers reportedly saw a gun in the victims pocket and yelled “gun”! At that point, the other officer opened fire and shot the victim six times in the chest.
The video clearly shows that the “gun” was never in the victim’s hand. It clearly shows that the gun was in his pocket, and therefore, according to the training I received, the officer should not have fired his weapon. Especially since the victim was being pinned to the ground by that officer.
As I have said before, I deplore violence. I know that from time to time it is necessary to protect citizens from criminals and police from being killed. But, we seem to have become a nation of “shoot first and ask questions later”. I say that is the wrong approach to have in policing our citizens. Especially when we know that some officers will use race as an excuse to shoot an innocent person.
One of the problems in all of this is that there are no real “standards” that police officers are trained to. Too many times, cadets at police academies get generalized instruction on the law and are put out on our streets not really knowing what they should be doing. Many communities don’t even have an academy for police officers, especially small sheriff’s departments. They either rely on hiring someone with “experience” or “on-the-job” training.
Instead of complaining about the police not getting enough military surplus equipment, we should be complaining about the levels of training our officer’s get. We should be complaining about hiring practices that allow too many “bad cops” to even get on the force. We should be complaining that too many unarmed, innocent people are being killed.
We should be talking, as Hillary Clinton did, about having “standardized” instruction in training for police officers so we don’t go from one “good jurisdiction” to a “bad jurisdiction” just by crossing a city, county or state line. Of course the right-wing immediately accused her of “wanting a nationalized police” to take away our rights.
I have great respect for all of the “good cops” in our country. I have worked with them closely often. I know what they go through. I understand the dangers they face everyday. However, that doesn’t mean I can sit quietly by and not call out “profiling” and “police brutality” when it happens.
Staying quiet does not fix the problems. Staying quiet does not help our officers get better. Staying quiet does not get them the training resources they need to properly do their jobs. Way too many unarmed people are being killed by police officers. It is time to stop the hysterical speech about “hating police” and start talking about how to make them better. Both sides need to sit down and rationally discuss the problems and come up with ways to fix them.
It really doesn’t matter what side of this issue you are on. If you really take time to listen and analyze what the right-wing is saying in all of this, you too will come to the conclusion that there is a police brutality and gun problem in this country. We can find solutions. We can fix the problem. But, we need to tell the bloviaters to shut the hell up so we can come together and solve our problems.